The Position Description
A position description conveys important information about a position and typically includes the duties, responsibilities, knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the position. This information is typically provided within a Job Description Questionnaire (JDQ).
A position description that is current, comprehensive, and concise is an important tool to be used at various stages of the employment process. Some of those stages are:
- recruitment and job posting
- interviewing and selection
- employee orientation
- training and development
- performance evaluation
- promotion and transfer
- disciplinary actions
- salary administration
- position classification
- identifying essential functions for ADA
Position analysis is a procedure by which positions are studied, with the aim of determining the duties and responsibilities of the position and the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to successfully perform them. The end result is a new or revised position description.
Position analysis requires a thorough familiarization with the job to learn as much as possible. Start with the following steps:
- Spend time with the incumbent at the job site, observing and conversing while the incumbent performs various tasks. If the position is vacant, gather information about the position from other sources, such as previous position descriptions, co-workers, etc.
- Identify specific position activities, work behaviors or other attributes required for satisfactory performance.
- Determine the reporting relationships—in terms of both supervision exercised and received.
- Observe the work environment as to physical working conditions, travel required, schedules (shifts), etc.
- Gather and document as much information as possible.
Next, analyze the information to:
- Determine the type and amount of education and work experience that will prepare someone to do the work.
- Determine measurable skills and credentials (e.g., a certain typing standard or licensure) that are required.
- Identify intangible criteria that is required or helpful in successful performance of the job, e.g., interpersonal skill, initiative, creativity, self-confidence, etc. The intangible job-related criteria can be used to help make the final decision between applicants who are quite similarly qualified.
Once information is gathered and documented, it can be used to prepare a complete and precise position description or to update an existing description.
- Position title and position number.
- Position's status (regular, temporary) and full-time equivalent rate.
- Agency and location of position.
- Name of supervisor.
- Compensation information.
- Status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (exempt, non-exempt).
- Purpose of position.
- Narrative description of the position.
- List of essential duties and responsibilities in order of importance and identified as essential.
- List of non-essential duties and responsibilities and identified as non-essential.
- Other duties that may be required or assigned. (These will be marginal duties.)
- Minimum qualifications for satisfactory performance—detailed knowledge and skill, and physical and mental ability requirements. Include any tests or certifications required.
- Preferred qualifications for the position.
- Extent of authority and reporting relationships.
- Features of working conditions (e.g. travel, unusual work hours, environmental conditions, etc.)
- Equipment and machinery used.
- Date of review.
The position description should be reviewed carefully to ensure that the content is directly relevant to the position and isn't discriminatory under such laws as the ADA. For example, duty statements should describe what the duties are and not how they are customarily performed. Minimum qualifications should include detailed statements on knowledge and skills required in addition to a certain level of education or work experience.
Position descriptions should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated or rewritten as necessary, so they can withstand possible legal challenge. A timely reminder to review a position description might be the annual performance review of an employee.